Design professionals have a challenging profession. They sometimes have to take a rather broad description of a project and turn it into a plan that the client or other professionals can follow that will make the client’s vision become reality. This comes with some risks, but it is possible to minimize them by having a strong contract that outlines exactly what you are responsible for and what responsibilities the client holds.

In order to fully protect you in court if something happens, your contract needs to include specific components. These include:

  • Scope of the project, including any drawings or blueprints if already finished
  • Detailed specifications of what’s expected
  • Timeline for the project, including projected completion date
  • All fees, including reimbursables
  • Hiring of contractors and consultants
  • Terms for payment
  • Insurance, bonding, and license information if applicable
  • Any guarantees or special clauses
  • Dispute resolution information and limitations

Once you have the contract set up for a project, you’ll sign it and the other party must sign it. Without both signatures, the contract isn’t valid.

It’s a good idea to take pictures of the final product that you deliver to the client and keep it with the contract. If the client comes back later, this might be important because you can show that you upheld your responsibilities in the matter.

Your attorney should review the contract template you use for your projects. If you make substantial changes to the document, have it reviewed again. Your entire goal is to protect your business and your reputation by ensuring that you have everything in order just in case a client claims that you didn’t do what they paid you to do.